The Siksika people intertwine drumming, singing and dancing into their societies’ pol itical and social fabric. On Aug. 6, individuals will be competing in a hand drum competition. Come enjoy the sights and sounds of the hand drum contest.
Join us as we showcase the diverse culture and achievements of the Blackfoot People. On August 6, 2019 we will offer an enhanced cultural experience for you to gain a deeper knowledge of the Blackfoot traditions and cultures through workshops and a horse riding demonstrations and more!
This summer we will be bringing you a wide range of cultural workshops and programs for you to experience! Come learn beading, watch a play (Aug.13) , take in everything that this enhanced experience has to offer.
Blackfoot Crossing Historical park is proud to be the First Nations representative at GlobalFest! The Siksika Nation welcomes you into our traditional territory and into our tipi . Look around our Pavillion and experience the Siksika way of l i fe. Ask us about how we l ived in the past and how we l ive today. Talk to us about our tipi designs, food, powwows or humour and we will do our best to immerse you into Blackfoot Culture!
Let your kids learn about the Siksika Way of Life through stories, discussions and activities. On Aug 20 BCHP Kids Cultural Day will make for a fun and interactive day. Find out about the Blackfoot tipi and maybe take home your own tipi design!
Stephen Old Yellow Woman was recently named general manager of Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park (BCHP), a historical and cultural Indigenous site for the Siksika, set on a beautiful piece of land along the Bow River an hour east of Calgary.
The site is steeped in sacred traditions. Here, the Blackfoot followed the buffalo herds — integral to their way of life for food, shelter and tools — and built teepee villages where they lived and raised their families. We recently talked to Old Yellow Woman about what the park means to him, his vision for its future and why it is so important to share the Blackfoot People and allied nations’ history and connection to the land with Albertans and the world.
Congratulations on your new role. It must be an honour to become GM of a destination you have a long affiliation with. What is that like for you?
It’s a welcome change. I was working previously with the economic arm of the Siksika Nation but being able to start working specifically with Indigenous tourism has been quite the change of pace. What I really like is that my dad, Vincent Yellow Old Woman, was part of the original board of directors and he cut the ribbon for BCHP (in the mid 2000s). So we have a connection here and I enjoy carrying that on. I wasn’t aware of it until I was working here, and somebody brought in a picture and said, ‘I think you might enjoy this’ and it was my dad cutting the ribbon. It’s like coming full circle, all these years later.
Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park has undergone some big changes over the past few years, and now seems to be poised for exciting new additions. Can you talk about your vision for BCHP?
My main vision is turning it into more than a traditional museum and moving it toward a full cultural experience. You can come and learn some history but then experience the Blackfoot lifestyle as it has been for millennia.
One of the new offerings this summer will be Experience Days where guests will get to interact with powwow dancers, learn some dances and even touch and try on the regalia.
We also have a historically authentic teepee village set up so that people can really experience the teepee and the traditions of the village, including camping overnight. There will be a culinary experience called the boiling pit. I like to call it the Blackfoot microwave. It’s a traditional way my people cooked hundreds of years before pots and pans, heating rocks until they are red hot and adding meat and vegetables into the water.
I envision it like that movie with Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum, where everything comes to life. We have powwow dancers, drummers, singers and women making Kyaii (dried meat) and pemmican. You’ll be able to come in and immerse yourself in the culture and history.
There’s also new trail development that allows guests to have a quiet place of reflection and to connect with nature.
Can you talk about the significance of the role of BCHP in the rapidly evolving world of Indigenous tourism? How does it stand out for Canadian and international visitors?
Recently, Alberta tourism released some statistics identifying Indigenous tourism as the next major emerging tourist attraction within Alberta. They’ve identified that it had been marginalized for years, but there’s such a hunger from people overseas and locally to come out and not just learn, but experience and participate and interact with the Blackfoot culture.
What does Blackfoot Crossing mean to you?
When I’m here, I feel the connection to my history, family, ancestors and my people. It’s one of the few places that are untouched. It’s majestic. I love looking out the window and seeing the view, where such rich history — for not just Blackfoot but for all Indigenous cultures — has intersected. It’s like a crossroads, not just for the Blackfoot who used to follow the buffalo migration by the river, but many nations congregated in this area. Technology and vehicles may have changed, but it still has that ability to have an impact on people locally and worldwide.
When people visit the museum, what do you want them to learn and take away from their experience?
I’d really like our guests to walk away with a better knowledge of what’s been here for thousands of years. We have the oldest artifact that we’ve been able to date, which is 1,200 years old, so that means we have a connection here for over 1,000 years. It’s so rich and vibrant. It’s a hidden gem. When they walk away from here, I’d like people to understand that there is such a long history in this area that goes back before written communication. We have such a connection here, and we want to get that message out.
Can you talk a bit more about the repatriation of some Blackfoot artifacts that will be coming to the museum this fall? What significance does that have for you, the museum and visitors?
We are working with Exeter Museum in England, which has some of Chief Crowfoot’s regalia. They have his buckskin shirt and his leggings. We’re looking to work with them and bring some of these items home. They were gifted to one of the delegates after the signing of Treaty 7 with Chief Crowfoot. To us, it’s like bringing Crowfoot home. We’re also finalizing the Crowfoot display, which has such precious artifacts, and are upgrading the environmental controls to ensure that these biodegradable materials can be enjoyed for many years to come.
For people who haven’t visited the museum in a while, what do you want them to know? Why should they return?
I say come back and rediscover us. We have new interactive offerings, like virtual reality, coming this summer, as well our new Experience Days. Our virtual reality experience gives guests immersive experiences that transport them back to the Dog Days. Those were the days before colonization and before horses, when we still relied on dogs for transporting goods. With virtual reality, guests will be able to feel like they are in a traditional teepee village or on a buffalo hunt. The really neat thing is that people will feel like they are picking up a buffalo skull, or other artifacts and really examining what is normally behind a glass case.
It’s like a new facility with new management, new ideas and a new direction. I’m excited for not just Blackfoot Crossing but for it how it spreads out to the rest of the Siksika Nation and how we’re able to all benefit from it.
Alberta’s Indigenous culture stretches back thousands of years to the time of nomadic tribes on the prairies following the massive buffalo herds and living their day-to-day lives off the land. Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, which opened in 2007 brings to life inside and outside the sacred traditions and culture of the Blackfoot and their ally nations in the massive complex.
Credit Travel Alberta This summer, the park is reinventing itself with a few new offerings. New general manager, Stephen Yellow Old Woman, has big plans. Rising out of the rolling prairies as far as the eye can see, the architecturally striking exhibit building is on traditional Blackfoot land along the Bow River about an hour southeast of Calgary.
Yellow Old Woman says beginning in July visitors can take part in a number of new offerings. Among them:
Blackfoot Crossing is also working with England’s Exeter Museum which has some of Chief Crowfoot’s regalia, including a buckskin shirt and leggings. The items were given to delegates after the signing of Treaty 7 with Chief Crowfoot in 1877.